Pain Doctor Accused of Sexually Assaulting Patients Faces New Federal Charges
Ricardo Cruciani, a former pain management physician, already faces state charges. Each of the federal charges carries a maximum sentence of 20 years.,
Federal prosecutors in New York filed criminal charges on Wednesday against Ricardo Cruciani, a former pain management physician, accusing him of enticing women to cross state lines to engage in illegal sexual activity over the course of 15 years.
Mr. Cruciani, 63, who has been accused of overmedicating and sexually assaulting numerous female patients, also faces state criminal charges in New York and New Jersey and is the target of a number of civil lawsuits seeking damages.
He surrendered his medical license in 2017 and had to register as a sex offender after pleading guilty to sexual assaults in Pennsylvania, but he has not served any time in prison.
Each of the five new federal counts against him carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison. The indictment also says that assets derived from committing the offenses could be seized by the government.
Mr. Cruciani, who lives in Wynnewood, Pa., was arrested in Pocono Pines, Pa., on Wednesday morning. His case will be heard by Judge John P. Cronan of U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York. He was scheduled to be arraigned on Thursday.
Efforts to reach his lawyer for comment were unsuccessful.
“Doctors like the defendant take an oath to do no harm,” Damian Williams, U.S. attorney for the Southern District, said in announcing the charges. “It is difficult to imagine conduct more anathema to that oath than exploiting patients’ vulnerability in order to sexually abuse them.”
Several of Mr. Cruciani’s former patients said that they felt gratified to see that the federal government had filed charges against him and that they hoped he would be held accountable.
“As a survivor of Mr. Cruciani’s repeated sexual assaults during his tenure as a pain management physician at Beth Israel, Capital Health and Drexel, I have longed for the day he would be held accountable for these heinous crimes,” said Hillary Tullin, a former patient.
“It has been nearly four years since state charges were brought against him, yet there is no trial date in sight,” she said. “It has been a living hell.”
The federal investigation in the case is still in progress, and officials urged anyone who might have been a victim of Mr. Cruciani’s to contact the U.S. attorney’s office for the Southern District of New York.
The 16-page federal indictment describes in detail how the former physician, who provided treatments for intractable pain conditions, developed personal relationships with patients. It says he sought to engender their trust and prescribed addictive pain medication that caused patients to become dependent on him, even as he became increasingly abusive.
Over the course of a 15-year period, from 2002 to 2017, Mr. Cruciani worked at several hospitals, including Beth Israel Medical Center in New York, Capital Health Hospitals in New Jersey and Drexel University in Philadelphia.
He met with patients alone in hotel rooms or apartments as well as in hospital offices, where he often locked the door, the indictment said. He asked the patients about their personal lives and shared details about his own life in an effort to get them to trust him, and he prescribed “significant quantities of opioids,” the indictment said.
In order to refill prescriptions of the highly addictive drugs, the patients had to return to see Mr. Cruciani in person, the indictment says.
“Cruciani and the victims knew that the victims suffered from severe and excruciating if not debilitating pain” and that most pain doctors would not prescribe the same amounts of medication, the indictment says. Mr. Cruciani, “at his discretion, could refuse to refill prescriptions,” it added.
Once he had established a relationship with a patient, the indictment says, Mr. Cruciani started engaging in sexual abuse — doing medically unnecessary vaginal and breast exams, forcing the women to stimulate him manually or perform oral sex, masturbating in front of them and forcing them to have vaginal intercourse.
The indictment describes Mr. Cruciani’s assaults on five unnamed women, identified only as Victims 1 through 5, all of whom crossed state lines to see him at his various places of employment. Four women lived outside New York State and traveled to get care from him at Beth Israel Medical Center in Manhattan, while the fifth traveled from New York to his offices in New Jersey and Pennsylvania, according to the indictment.
In one episode described in the indictment, Victim 1, a chronic pain patient who traveled from outside New York State to see Mr. Cruciani in 2002 or 2003, sought to switch doctors because of the sexual assaults. She requested that her medical records be sent to her new doctor, but Mr. Cruciani refused, insisting that she come to see him in person to pick them up.
“Upon arriving at Cruciani’s medical offices, Cruciani sexually abused and/or attempted to sexually abuse Victim 1,” the indictment says.